Q: How good of a tight end is Darren Waller and how tough of a matchup?
BB: Yeah, he's really, really tough. I think it's been such a long time since we've seen a guy like this. He's really got great receiver skills, played receiver. He's got a lot of length like a big receiver does, but he's got very good quickness and he blocks very competitively. He's not afraid to mix it up. So, he's definitely more than a receiver playing tight end, but he's got all the skills that can come inside. He's a very good inside receiver, which sometimes the wide outs have trouble making that move in there. He's really been impressive to watch. We saw him last year, looked at him in the offseason and you just see him doing everything – playing wide, playing in the backfield, playing tight end, running deep, catch-and-run plays, blocking, flash plays, point of attack plays. So, very versatile player, pretty unique guy in the league. There's some really good tight ends, but nobody really does more than this guy does and he does it very well. He's got excellent hands and makes a lot of tough catches. He's definitely a matchup problem.
Q: You've spoken with respect about Mike Mayock in the past from his work at NFL Network, and obviously now he's helping put a team together with Jon Gruden. As you got into studying the Raiders, what has stood out to you about some of the characteristics of the team that those two have put together?
BB: Well, they have put together a very explosive offensive group. They've got a lot of explosive players at every position – receiver, tight end, running back, quarterback, a big, physical offensive line, like Jon's always had. And I'd say defensively, they've taken young players in the secondary, at corner, at safety, and tried to get a very athletic linebacker group for Coach [Paul] Guenther with some big guys inside, as well. They've got two good edge rushers. So, it's a young team, you can see what they're trying to do, and they've certainly taken a lot of strides. Again, especially from what I saw from last year to this year – I didn't really study them too much prior to the 2019 season – but looking at them from the end of the year last year to where they are this year, they've added players and the players that they had have gotten better. Or, like in [Johnathan] Abram's case, has been able to play this year, so he's really helped them. They're good in the kicking game, so they have put together a strong, talented group and I'm sure they'll continue to get better. There are a lot of young players here on this team.
Q: I was wondering how your relationship changes with a coach like Jon, who goes from coaching in your conference to being in the media and now back to coaching within the conference?
BB: Well, yeah, it's a lot easier to have a relationship with somebody who's not in direct competition with you, but I've always had a good relationship with Jon and I have a ton of respect for Jon. We have kind of come up sort of together, but on opposite sides of the ball, until he made the move to broadcasting. So, he's always been very productive and he's a hardworking, grinding kind of coach that is very good in details and knows what everybody's doing, knows what the defense is doing, knows what plays are tough and against certain defensive schemes and player matchups and so forth.
He always asked great questions as a commentator when I met with him in production meetings. He saw the game through a coach's eyes and he had the obvious advantage and opportunity to watch all 32 teams and learn things from each of them. When you're a coach, you only see one team and he's had a great experience in broadcasting to be able to see a different view of each team and each organization and the game from a different perspective. So, I'm sure that's been interesting to him, which he told me it was, so I'm sure he learned a lot there, too. I think our relationship is good. It's just, as you mentioned, different, like it always is when you're in competition, sometimes more direct than others. But, when you're in competition with somebody else, it just changes a little bit during that time period, but I'm sure at some point that it will be a different type of relationship.
Q: Watching the Raiders game last night, there were a bunch of plays where they had the receivers or tight ends in tight splits and were running the ball. What is the advantage of having receivers in tight like that when you try to get the ball outside?
BB: Yeah, well, a lot of teams do that. I mean, we've been seeing tight splits forever, but certainly the Rams' success that they had in 2018 with a lot of their tight split packages – again, other teams do it, too. There are a lot of teams that use those. Certainly, the Raiders mix them in there, like they do everything. They give you a lot of different looks. Coach Gruden does a great job of using multiple personnel groups, multiple formations, different looks, different play concepts, but all within the framework of doing things that are fundamental and have principles embedded in their system. So, the execution is at a high level. The quarterback's reads are the same, but the play look different to the defense. He does a great job of doing that – of game planning, of changing up the looks – but at the same time, having a higher level of execution on the offensive side of the ball because of the continuity of the techniques, fundamentals and quarterback reads in the passing game, and in the running game, as well. It's a lot of the same plays, but the looks are different, the formations are different, the plays appear to be different, but fundamentally, they're really the same, but it's very hard on the defense to recognize what they're doing until a lot of times it's too late and it slows you down by half a step.
Q: People talk a lot about a team coming off a short week, preparing for a game and how that's an adjustment. Is there an adjustment for you guys when you prepare for a team that has a short week like the Raiders do right now?
BB: Right, well, usually you have all the information on a team in by Sunday night or Monday morning when you start to put it all together. Now, we didn't get the New Orleans game really until this morning, so we're little bit behind there in terms of putting it all together, especially this early in the season when there's not really very much information, no preseason games and so forth. There's nothing we can do about the schedule, but it does change up the kind of information flow a little bit. But, ultimately we have plenty of time to prepare for the game and get all of the information in. We just have to rearrange our schedule a little bit, but that's not really a big problem.
Q: Along those same lines, not being able to have the players come in the day after a game because the NFL rules, has that made it more difficult to do corrections and go over the film with the players?
BB: Players are allowed to come after the game. They came in last week after the game.
Q: I thought on Monday's after games the facility was supposed to be closed.
BB: No, that's not what the rule is. There's some limitations on meeting size groups and so forth, but it's not closed, no.
Q: What has your impression been of Cam Newton's game management skills so far, in terms of checking into the right play and setting the protections?
BB: I mean, each game and each situation is different. What we do this week obviously will be different than what we did last week because of the type of defense we're playing and the schemes and the players that they have and all that. So, each week's a new challenge, but Cam understands what we want to do. He has a good grasp. He's got a lot of playing experience and is a very instinctive player, and when things come up in the game, he's very quick to identify the differences from what we've prepared for and or what the team has shown in the past based on the last two weeks. But, we'll continue to work together on that. As a coaching staff, we need to sharpen our skills there and the communication with the players, and players have to react and sharpen their skills, as well. Collectively, we have to do that in all three phases of the game and collectively we'll have to keep working to do things better than we did last week in game situations. Even though it's a different team and some of the adjustments are different, the process hopefully we can be a little bit sharper and improve in our area as well and do that collectively with the players.